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Fan Jishe (Trump-Kim Summit)

Apr 11 , 2018
  • Fan Jishe

    Senior Fellow, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Last year witnessed "the highest tension" in the Korean Peninsula since 1994. Early this year, North Korea's gestures and the proposed Inter-Korea Summit and a possible Kim-Trump Summit offered a glimmer of hope to lower the tension.

There’s a high probability the Kim-Trump Summit will happen. It is not because either side has dramatically changed their rigid positions, but because there is no better alternative and neither side will have anything significant to lose at a summit. The Trump Administration has clearly stated that its "Maximum Pressure" campaign will remain intact, and its joint military drills with South Korea will be conducted as planned. The proposed summit will offer an opportunity to test North Korea's intentions on denuclearization. For North Korea, the unprecedented sanctions hurt badly, and it has claimed that it has accomplished "the historic cause of perfecting the national nuclear forces". By proposing a summit, North Korea does not need to give up what it has achieved, and a summit might help to relax the sanctions and lower the probability of military conflict.

Whether the Kim-Trump summit will be a success depends on both sides' strategic decisions. President Trump he may need to assemble an experienced team and get well prepared for the coming meeting. He also needs to be well aware of the reality that North Korea can't be denuclearized overnight even if it is willing to be. It’s important to remember that negotiation is a two-way street, and the United States should be ready to address some of North Korea's legitimate security concerns. North Korea must realize that the United States is very frustrated with past negotiations, and President Trump's patience is wearing thin. He may be willing to talk about something big, but it is also dangerous to tease him. If North Korea can’t deliver anything at the summit, further deterioration of the situation is expected.

North Korea wants to make itself a de facto nuclear armed country, and President Trump wants to break it. Thing could go wrong very easily. Both sides should buckle up and drive safe.

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